Saturday’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 at Martinsville Speedway was… different, as the NASCAR Cup Series debuted the Next Gen car at the half-mile paperclip.
William Byron, who also captured victory in Thursday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event, probably didn’t mind, as the 24-year-old picked up his second win of the season and the fourth of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
“It feels awesome,” Byron said post-race. “When that last caution came out, I thought everyone behind us would pit and luckily we stayed out. We were aggressive. We felt like we could re-fire on the tires and be okay, and you’ve got one of the most aggressive guys behind you in [Joey] Logano.”
Byron and Chase Elliott – his Hendrick Motorsports teammate — led an incredible 397 of the race’s 403 laps, with the only exceptions being five laps led by Ryan Blaney, and one led by Austin Dillon.
The event pivoted from the beloved short track’s norm, with the entire race only featuring four yellows, two of which were for scheduled stage breaks. Furthermore, there wasn’t a single pass for the lead on the track under green flag conditions
However, the dynamic of the event quickly shifted back to Martinsville races of the past, with a caution flag for Todd Gilliland hitting the turn four wall setting up a NASCAR Overtime restart.
With Joey Logano to his outside and Austin Dillon directly behind him, Byron was able to get an amazing launch and extend his gap over Dillon, while simultaneously clearing Logano exiting turn two.
“I knew I chattered the tires in [turns] three and four and kind of left the bottom open but was able to block my exits and get a good drive off,” Byron said of his final two-lap stint.
Logano would finish a season-best second, after a failed attempt to move Byron up the track. Austin Dillon was able to hold onto third, with Ryan Blaney and Ross Chastain completing the top five.
After a pair of rough races, Kurt Busch rebounded with a solid sixth-place finish for 23XI Racing, while Kyle Busch rebounded for seventh. Aric Almirola, Chase Briscoe, and Chase Elliott also earned top-10 results.
Next, the NASCAR Cup Series will head to Bristol, Tennessee, for the second annual Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Easter Sunday (Sunday, April 18) night, with live coverage of the event on FOX Sports 1.